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Stage 62 production has tense edge

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:36 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Stage 62 director J.P. Walsh of Kennedy Township (left) looks on as Matthew Rush of Crafton, playing Father Flynn, practices his lines for 'Doubt, a Parable,' during rehearsal at Stage 62 in East Carnegie.
Sister Aloysius, played by Cindy West of Bellevue (right), practices her lines with Sister James, played by Anna Dorosh of Cranberry, during rehearsal for Stage 62's production of 'Doubt, a Parable,' at Stage 62 in East Carnegie.

J.P. Walsh is pleased his directorial debut with Stage 62 is “Doubt: A Parable.”

It's a first for him and a first for any community theater group in the area, he said.

In 2005, “Doubt” won a Tony Award for best play and a Pulitzer Prize for best drama, and on May 9, 10 and 11 and 16, 17 and 18, it will be performed at Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie.

“It's 90 minutes of intense drama, and it opens on so many levels,” Walsh said.

The original screenplay was set in the 1960s, a time when the Catholic Church was undergoing changes. It was the time of Vatican II, when some traditions of the church were being traded for more contemporary ways. That tension is expressed in encounters of Sister Aloysius, an old-school sister, and the young Father Flynn.

“She doesn't like the young priest from the beginning,” said Walsh, 39, from Kennedy Township, who has been with the company since 2009.

The company, founded in 1962 in Bethel Park, is 70 members strong.

As an all-volunteer group, the players pitch in for every aspect of the productions. Rob James, the company president, is acting as technical director and doing set design, although he has directed and acted in plays during his 20 years with Stage 62.

A Carlynton High School graduate, he discovered theater at Grove City College, where he also met Walsh, who had caught the acting bug. In fact, he was there at Stage 62 when Walsh was recommended. James directed “Titanic;” Walsh acted in it and later married a cast member.

Both men find the company to have incredible talents, enough to take on the very serious nature of “Doubt.”

“The play deals with scandals in the church loosely,” Walsh said, “but also the nature of truth, racism and sexism. He (John Patrick Schanley, the screenplay writer) ties in so many things in this compact script.”

The art of the play as it moves from scene to scene is its ambiguity: Who's right? Who's wrong? Was there misconduct or was Sister Aloysius just intent on ruining the man's career?

The Broadway cast, which first performed “Doubt,” couldn't come to a unanimous conclusion on who was guilty, Walsh said. Performers acting in character lead audiences to develop their own conclusions.

Walsh didn't discuss with his lead characters whether they were guilty or not. He told Flynn to be likeable and Sister Aloysius to be brusque and difficult and someone that people don't really like. With his cast stepping up, he'll leave the play for audiences to decide.

“Its seriousness can't be overlooked,” Walsh said. “It's about crime and accusation, but it's not an anti-Catholic diatribe. .”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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